Is Wine No Longer a Luxury?

This week, Wine & Spirits magazine released its 20th
annual restaurant wine survey. As usual, the survey is the usual
once-a-year kiss-up to Sonoma-Cutrer as the most popular wine brand in
American restaurants. But there is a nugget in the teaser to the press
release that merits more attention than the release actually gave it:

Data suggests [sic] that fine wine sales remain essentially
sound. Diners facing recession consider wine part of the meal rather
than an
add-on.

The release contained a quote from a restaurateur that “people are
drinking the same amount of wine but spending less.” But then it
dropped the point in order to heap praise on the supermarket wine brands
that are distributed widely enough to rank highlyW&S in a nationwide survey like this.

The release as a whole missed the point of its own data.

It’s no surprise that people are “drinking down” and spending
less on a bottle of wine in these tough economic times. But if these
data are to be believed – and as suggested in the press release tease
but not pursued – we’re not giving wine up altogether. Wine perhaps
is no longer a “luxury item” to be enjoyed only on special occasions
and deferred in tough times.

“Wine is a necessity of life for me,” Thomas Jefferson once wrote. Maybe Americans are beginning to agree with him.

At least, those of us still affluent enough to dine out.

The 20th annual restaurant wine survey is published in the April issue of Wine & Spirits.

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